Republican members of Congress echoed several of Sean Hannity's suggestions about what to ask Robert Mueller
- On July 24, former special counsel Robert Mueller appeared before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees to testify about the findings of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
- The night before the hearing, Fox News host Sean Hannity devoted his monologue to advising Republican members of Congress about how to put pressure on Mueller and gave them suggestions on what questions to ask.
- "You need to pay attention, and you need to do your job tomorrow, and you better study up, and if you need some help, pay close attention," Hannity said.
- By and large, GOP members of Congress devoted much of their time on Tuesday to asking questions about many of the topics Hannity recommended, from the origins of the Russia probe to the political beliefs of Mueller's staff.
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On July 24, former special counsel Robert Mueller appeared before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees to testify about the findings of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.
Democrats in Congress were hoping that Mueller speaking out would bring more attention to the conclusions of his report - specifically the 11 instances of potential obstruction - while Republicans sought to use the hearing to poke holes in Mueller's credibility and the strength of his conclusions.
The night before the hearing, Fox News opinion host Sean Hannity - who has been criticizing the Mueller probe on his nightly show for over two years - devoted his monologue to advising Republican members of Congress about how to put pressure on Mueller and expose flaws and bias in his investigative methods, as the Daily Beast reported.
"This will impact generations to come because I don't want some weak Republicans in congress to blow it. We've been following the story and I just want to try to lay out a basic, fundamental tutorial for these weak Republicans that have no clue to follow," Hannity said in the monologue.
He instructed potential Republican lawmaker viewers: "You need to pay attention and you need to do your job tomorrow and you better study up and if you need some help, pay close attention because some of you probably are not well informed on this topic."
Several GOP members of Congress devoted part of their time on Wednesday to asking questions about many of the topics Hannity suggested, from the origins of the Russia probe to the political beliefs of Mueller's staff.
The first main area that Hannity suggested Republican lawmakers focus on was the Steele Dossier, and the origins of the counter-intelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.
"Mr. Mueller, when did you first hear about the phony Clinton bought-and-paid-for Russian dossier full of Russian lies? When did you first hear about it?" Hannity suggested the lawmakers ask, among many other questions pertaining to the dossier.
The dossier, which was compiled by a firm called Fusion GPS and a former M16 British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, contains several allegations about Trump's business ties to Russia. It was initially commissioned by the conservative Washington Free Beacon in 2015, but after Trump won the nomination in 2016, the Clinton campaign hired Fusion GPS to collect opposition research on Trump.
Conservative skeptics of the Mueller probe, including the GOP members of Congress who questioned Mueller, have attempted to link the Steele dossier to the origin to the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a FISA warrant for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, and the Mueller probe itself.
While arguing that the dossier being partially funded by the Clinton campaign discredited and tainted the warrants and investigations, the Steele dossier did not become public until well after the FBI's counterintelligence began, and there is no evidence it served as the basis for either the FBI or the special counsel investigations, or that it was the main basis for the Page FISA warrant.
Multiple Republicans including Reps. Devin Nunes, Matt Gaetz, John Ratcliffe Jim Jordan, Steve Chabot, and Elise Stefanik pressed Mueller on whether he had interviewed Steele, the Steele dossier's potential impact on the investigation, and more.
Much to the frustration of Republican lawmakers, however, Mueller repeatedly declined to discuss the Steele Dossier, telling lawmakers it was beyond his "purview," and he couldn't comment on it because it was the subject of an ongoing DOJ investigation.
Another subject that Hannity pressed congressional Republicans to question Mueller about pertained to the political beliefs of his team of prosecutors.
"Next, it's important you have to cover Mueller's staffing decisions," Hannity said. "Were you aware that [Andrew] Weissmann was a devout Democrat and that he was at Clinton's victory party? When did you become aware that your team was only made up of big-time Democratic donors and zero Republicans? Were you aware that Jeannie Rhee, who worked for you, worked on the Hillary Clinton foundation as her lawyer?" he suggested as possible questions.
Two Republicans, Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah and Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, asked Mueller why he had hired prosecutors who had represented Democrats and donated to Democratic political candidates.
"We strove to hire those individuals that could do the job. I've been in this business for almost 25 years, and in those 25 years, I have not had an occasion once to ask somebody about their political affiliation," Mueller responded. "It is not done. What I care about is the capability of the individual to do the job and do the job quickly and seriously and with integrity."
Hannity also suggested that a lawmaker ask Mueller whether he was friends with former FBI Director James Comey. In his report, Mueller named Trump's May 2017 firing of Comey as one of the 11 potential instances of obstruction of justice by Trump.
Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas asked Mueller if he and Comey were good friends during their time together at the FBI, which Mueller led from 2001 to 2013, Mueller responded that they were business associates and friends.
Republican lawmakers ended up asking Mueller about several other topics Hannity had suggested, including the Mueller team's prosecution of George Papadopoulos and whether he concluded that the president didn't commit obstruction of justice.
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